Develop a Relationship With Your Vet

norman-rockwell-at-the-vets-march-29-1952In this blog, I decided to talk about something I have seen  on the decline in the last few years. In the years I have been in practice, I have witnessed a decrease in the quality of the relationship between pet owners and their veterinarians. Whose fault is it? Well, I want to say, the owner. But, that is not always the case. What I can tell you is what I feel owners need to do to help remedy the situation. First, don’t go from vet to vet. Believe it or not, I do remember many of the pets I take care of on a regular basis. Yes, I take notes, but also, I generally will remember a pet from year to year. I look for changes, not just in weight and physical condition, but in attitude and demeanor. When pets are going from one vet to another, I feel a big part of their health care is missing. If your veterinary hospital has multiple vets, try to make your appointments with one of them on a regular basis. While not a bad thing to have more than one vet (after all, four eyes see more than two) having a working relationship with one person is your best path to great care.

When I have had the honor of caring for a client’s pet or pets for years, I get to know what the client’s expectations are. Some of my clients have been with me from the beginning. I have seen generations of their pets. I get to know their feelings about pet care and quality of life. I have clients that want everything that can be done in a declining aging pet and others that want to stick with basics. Don’t get me wrong, knowing what a client’s predisposition is does not change what I recommend in the best interest of the pet, but it does help me decide how to present the options.

My advice for clients is to be honest with your veterinarian. If I don’t know there is a problem, I can’t fix it. If I am asking you to give your cat or dog pills and you go home and simply don’t give them as it is too hard, it doesn’t help your pet. If canned food is better for a particular condition than dry food and therefore I recommend it, tell me if you know your furry friend won’t eat it. If you get home and discover that your pet doesn’t like it, call my hospital. I will do my best to come up with a viable option.

Above all, remember your veterinarian does not have a magic wand. If you want answers, a physical examination and, in some cases, testing needs to be done. If you are satisfied with symptomatic treatment to see if it works, tell the vet! Be aware that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have clients that I am very comfortable saying” let’s try this and see how he does” as I know those people will show up for the follow up and allow me to reevaluate. Other clients, I know if it doesn’t work, will wait until next year when there is another problem to let me know the first never cleared up. And, yes, that does make a difference in my decision making. I get upset when I know a pet has been suffering from a health issue that was not properly resolved.

Next is the sticky part. Nobody likes to talk about money. When we love our pets, we’d like to think money is not important. But, health maintenance and disease treatment cost money. If you have limitations….and unless you are Bill Gates, you likely do, do not hesitate to discuss money with your vet. Sometimes, wellness costs can be spread out so you do not have to pay at one visit. For a sick pet, ask for an estimate of costs. I may not know how long it will take your pet to get well, but I can give you some idea of the costs for the next twenty-four hours. When I take my car to the mechanic, I have no clue whether the repair will be $100 or $1000. Generally, the mechanic can give me an idea of cost at the outset, but I may very well get a call later that another problem was discovered.  Things come up with pets as well.

This important relationship is a two way street. A veterinarian needs to listen to the client and try to understand what the needs are of that pet owner. As professionals, we need to realize that what was appropriate treatment twenty-five years ago, may not be the best way to go now. I need to be willing to go outside of my comfort zone for our patients  and/or refer them for something that best fits their needs. I need to be able to be able to talk to a pet owner about things they may not want to hear. My job, my career, my life, is to be an advocate for the best interest of the animals entrusted to my care.



Picture at top “At the Vet” by Norman Rockwell